Portraying the abandoned village of Doel near to the harbor of Antwerp by using the empty houses as huge camera obscuras!
At the origin of this project lies the new announcement of the immediate and overall demolition of Doel. The small, 700-year old polder village, near Antwerp was once a popular bathing town but over the years it got closed in by the ever-expanding Antwerp harbor and Belgium’s largest nuclear power plant site. Finding itself between the hammer and the anvil, the village has been under constant threat of demolition. As early as the 1960’s inhabitants were asked to relocate and several waves of migration followed.
Doel’s history can be found emblematic for today’s global economic tendencies, and its human casualties, but it hasn’t escaped local arbitrariness. Due to poor government policy, lacking any kind of expropriation policy, today the village is still there. It is largely owned by a company called Maatschappij Linkeroever, with the harbor, the Flemish government and the neighboring villages Beveren and Zwijndrecht as its important stockholders. Although the number of inhabitants has decreased by 90 %, there are still a few militants left, resisting government pressure and demanding an appropriate expropriation policy. Their case has been brought before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Awaiting a final decision, the Maatschappij Linkeroever protects the village, that has become attractive to many vandals, graffiti taggers and squatters. Nearly in ruins, the houses are being cut of from the outside world and its windows and doors are being sealed by wooden panels. Still, light enters through the small cracks in the beams, or wholes in the houses’ fragile construction, and an outside image is still be visible at the inside. The houses were potential camera obscuras.
Being a photographer, I found it very interesting to work with this given situation. Moreover the pinhole camera is one of the oldest photographic techniques, and thus lends itself very good to a discourse of loss and authenticity. That the measures taken against the further survival of this village, allows to document it’s actual situation, off course ads an ironic touch.
What I concretely do, is enter the houses and further transform its rooms into large cameras. I put photo-sensitive paper on walls and other surfaces, and let the light enter through a small pinhole that I make in the beams sealing the windows. In a way, the photographic procedure reveals the latent image and prints it on the wall; the house documents its own (disappearing) view.
Text by: Tanja Boon
Allocation of funds
I have been working on this project for two years now. It’s a very time-consuming project, often passing through a process of trial and error, as the technique demands the mastery of many aspects. Obviously time is exactly the unknown element in this equation. In 2010 the destruction of few houses was commanded but the the activities had to be put on hold as they led to a wave of solidarity in Flanders. However, nobody knows how much time exactly is left.
Up until today, the first three images of my project have been realised. My goal is to create a series of ten images, which will then be exhibited in Doel, during the festivities related to the village’s tradition of blessing the Scheldt river (August 2013). I have estimated my budget at 4 300 Euro, which will allow me to provide in the necessary photographic material.
To thank all of those who support the project, I have realized an image of Doel with the pinhole technique described above onto a wall covered with 100 polaroids. Each polaroid is part from the overall image, so that all the persons supporting this project will be united by their part of this unique image of Doel.
Please know that your support is of vital importance, as the only obstacle that could prevent this project from being realised, is the threat of not gathering enough budget within the little time that is left.
I thank everyone for its support, and don’t forget to spread the word!!!
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